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Luetkemeyer Column- Critical Issues Still Ahead


Location: Washington, DC

Regardless of the outcome of the November 6th election, the current Congress has some very significant issues that must be dealt with between now and the end of the year. This timeframe, generally referred to as the lame duck, provides an opportunity for Congress to tackle some truly critical issues before the end of the year.

It is my belief that Congress will be spending much of the Christmas season working on legislation that deals with tax increases, defense cuts and spending, Medicare and the impending fiscal cliff. All of these issues in one way or another have a significant impact on hard-working families. One of the most frustrating aspects involving these issues is that the House of Representatives, with my support, acted earlier this year on these issues but the Senate has failed to even consider them.

In August, the House passed the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012 that would extend current tax relief that was put in place in 2001 and 2003. Across Missouri and the entire country, individuals, small businesses, families with children, married couples, and adoptive parents will all face higher taxes on January 1, 2013, if we fail to extend these tax cuts. By offering Americans relief and certainty, hard-working folks like you will have more money in your pockets to spend and invest which in turn will lead to critical economic growth. It is my sincerest hope that in the weeks following the election, the Senate and the president will put partisan politics and class warfare aside and finally embrace tax relief.

Meanwhile, back in May, I joined the majority in the House in supporting the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act (SRAA), which would replace the defense spending cuts scheduled to go into effect in January, 2013, with reductions to other federal programs. This would restore $78 billion in defense funding. This month the House passed H.R. 6365, legislation that would eliminate the sequester upon enactment of the House-passed reconciliation bill or an alternative bill that achieves the same (or greater) level of savings over five years. The legislation also reduces the FY 2013 discretionary spending cap by $19.1 billion to $1,028 billion. The bill also requires the president to submit to Congress, no later than October 15, 2012, legislation that replaces the sequestration with equal or greater spending cuts over five years. The Senate has yet to act on this bill. If not halted, these defense cuts would be devastating to our troops and our national defense, and have a negative impact on the thousands of defense jobs in Missouri. At a time when we are facing some significant global defense challenges in the Middle East and right here at home, the last thing that needs to happen is to allow these cuts to take effect.

Also on our plate as we come to the end of the year is the expiration of the so-called Doc-Fix provision, requiring Congress to make changes to the Medicare reinbursement rates that physicians receive. The House previously dealt with this issue in legislation that is currently languishing in the Senate. Without these changes, the reimbursement rates going to physicians would plummet by as much as 30 percent, which could jeopardize the availability of care to elderly Americans.

We've got a lot of issues on the table and not a lot of time to get them done and to be honest, I've told my family not to expect me home between Christmas and New Year's Day. It is disheartening that despite all the work the House has done on your behalf, the Senate has chosen to play chicken with your future. Once the dust has cleared from the election, there is a lot to be done.

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